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Minimum thickness, maximum energy efficiency


When a new project captured the attention of Chinese architects in 1953, the object of their interest was no towering skyscraper, but a three-story office building. That year, the campus of the renowned Tongji University in Shanghai became home to Wen Yuan Lou – the first Bauhaus-style building in the People’s Republic. The string of awards that have been bestowed upon the building throughout its history includes the prestigious China Excellent Architecture Prize. However, it soon became clear that the trade-off for the beauty of Wen Yuan Lou was its poor thermal insulation. As it was insufficient to satisfy the Chinese government’s ambitious targets for cutting energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, the decision was taken to completely renovate the entire building. The project was a major challenge, as any solution that affected the façade of the building would destroy the character of this listed architectural treasure. It was decided that the best approach would be to insulate the building from the inside – interior walls, ceilings and floors – using rigid polyurethane foam based on raw materials from Bayer MaterialScience. This material offers better insulating qualities than any other material on the market and, as a result, even very thin layers can satisfy insulation requirements.

Tongji University has long had close links with German institutes. In fact, the university was founded 100 years ago by a German scientist with the aim of establishing academic exchange between the two countries. It was no coincidence therefore that as soon as planning work for the renovation project started in 2005, contact was established between the project’s organizers, the “College of Architecture and Urban Planning” (CAUP), and insulation experts from Bayer MaterialScience. CAUP is the leading architectural institute in China and is also located at Tongji University.

The jointly conceived energy efficiency concept involved using rigid polyurethane foam to systematically insulate ceilings, internal walls and floors in the central section, the western and eastern entrance areas and the stairways, covering a total area of 3,600 square meters. Due to its outstanding insulating properties, a 20-to-40-millimeter-thick layer of the rigid foam was sufficient.

Rigid polyurethane foam is highly energy efficient throughout its lifecycle, from production through application to recycling. Moreover, polyurethane insulating boards provide twice the insulating performance of cork or hemp of the same thickness. Other attractive properties of the material include its outstanding fire retardance and excellent mechanical stability. What’s more, it is equally suitable for insulating newly constructed buildings and retrofitting older buildings, and also withstands the tough conditions of tropical, humid and cold climates.

This project again underlines the ability of Bayer MaterialScience to use its long-standing experience and innovative materials to produce environmentally sound solutions. Not the least, customers of Bayer MaterialScience’s global polyurethane systems business, which the company has been operating under the umbrella brand BaySystems® since March 1, 2007 will benefit from this outstanding ability. BaySystems® encompasses both existing product brands in this segment and the global network of polyurethane systems houses, which is currently being expanded.

Demand for efficient insulation products is growing rapidly in the Asia-Pacific region and particularly in China, where the government’s requirements for cutting energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions are also helping to drive growth. Bayer MaterialScience is currently establishing a new world-scale production facility for methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) – a key raw material for rigid polyurethane foam – at its integrated site in Shanghai. It is to provide an annual capacity of 350,000 tons and is scheduled to be completed in the coming year. The company intends to use the new facility primarily to meet demand from customers in the Asia-Pacific region.


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